Flood Risk Management and Modelling Competition

Closed 30 Sep 2016

Opened 26 May 2016

Results updated 31 Jan 2017

Cumbria flood competition winners announced

Floods Minister Thérèse Coffey has today awarded Jeremy Benn Associates and Lancaster University the top prize in a floods competition to find innovative ways to tackle flooding focusing on the Eden catchment in Cumbria.

The competition saw experts across the world make use of the 10,000 datasets released by Defra under its open data accelerator programme released by Defra and the Environment Agency to develop new ways to combat flooding –

The winning entries will now help development of the Cumbrian Pioneer Project, one of the four new trailblazing projects the government will be launching as part of its forthcoming 25 Year Plan for the Environment.  

Floods Minister Thérèse Coffey said:

“I would like to congratulate all the winners of our Cumbria Flood Modelling Competition and thank them for taking time to help with a hugely important issue.

“This competition has been a fantastic opportunity to benefit from the wisdom and creativity of floods experts from around the world. We will now be able to use these new ideas and insight to help better protect not just Cumbria’s people, businesses and infrastructure from flooding but communities across the nation.”

Jeremy Benn Associates and Lancaster University’s entry champions the use of new data and whole-catchment modelling to generate a much wider range of realistic extreme event scenarios than is normally used.

Proposed measures include:

  • Natural flood risk management, including large scale flood storage in the lower catchment
  • Improved interpretations of flood warnings
  • Interactive maps showing property-level impacts based on detailed models

Barry Hankin from Jeremy Benn Associates and Lancaster University’s winning team said:

“It is a real honour to have received the top prize in Defra's competition. Our entry builds on over 10 years of academic research and industry innovation, combining advances in computer modelling and data analysis with local engagement.

“This prize money will help us to keep looking into flood risk management strategies that include both traditional and nature-based measures, and we're already engaging other river catchment areas to see how our modelling approach to the Eden can be applied elsewhere.”

The prize giving ceremony was held at Defra’s headquarters in Westminster, with runners up Innovation awards going to:

  • Dutch Consortium (Royal Haskoning DHV, Nelen and Schuurmans, Deltares, Delft University of Technology)
  • Sayers and Partners LLP and Horritt Consulting (Paul Sayers and Matt Horritt)
  • Durham University (Sim Reaney and Callum Pearson)

The Dutch entry concentrated on the benefits of integrated and collaborative working between partners and how modelling can be better used to understand how water flows through the catchment.

Sayers and Horritt’s entry looks at how modelling can mirror important aspects of the catchment in order to more accurately assess factors that affect flood risk. 

Durham’s entry supports modelling of map locations to assess where river management techniques could be better used to ‘slow the flow’.

The judging panel also made special mention of the entry by Andrew Ross, "Green Bond for Cumbria" which the judges felt had particularly interesting approach towards catchment management particularly its exploration of natural capital and natural flood risk management through Green Bonds for Cumbria.    

Entries took the form of a briefing paper up to 5,000 words, with prizes awarded for both the overall quality of the analysis and for innovative thinking or modelling in specific areas.

The prize fund has been generously supported by United Utilities, Aviva and the Natural Environment Research Council (Nerc).




During the course of the government’s National Flood Resilience Review, a wide variety of potential approaches to flood risk management have been highlighted, including new techniques and models for assessing land use, water flow, natural flood management, meteorological sensitivities, property-level resilience and economic impacts. At the same time, Defra’s accelerated open data programme is bringing over 8,000 environmental data sets into the public domain for the first time, many of which are relevant to the assessment of optimal catchment-wide flood risk management strategies.

In light of these developments, Defra has decided to launch a Flood Risk Management Competition, to create an opportunity for a wide range of interested parties to apply their particular areas of expertise to a specific flood risk management challenge. Building on the excellent work of the Cumbria Floods Partnership, which has recently issued its first report, the competition will focus on the following question:

 If you were responsible for managing the Eden catchment in Cumbria, what  flood risk  management approaches would you recommend, and why?

Entrants will be asked to focus on this practical overall policy question, while demonstrating imaginative new approaches to at least one part of the problem. Entries will take the form of a briefing paper (up to 5,000 words), with prizes awarded for both the overall quality of the analysis and for innovative thinking or modelling in specific areas. The prize fund has been generously supported by United Utilities, Aviva and the Natural Environment Research Council (Nerc), who share our strong interest in the aims of the competition.

We have now published the competition specification and data pack, (with associated licenses) and you can download them below.  Further data will be added when it becomes available and we will let you know when this happens. 


  • Charities/Voluntary Organisations
  • Environmental campaigners
  • Government Departments
  • Government Agencies
  • National Park Authorities
  • Water/water Industry sector
  • Water Abstractors
  • Environmental professional services
  • Water suppliers
  • Insurance industry
  • Consultants


  • Natural environment
  • Local nature partnerships
  • Climate change
  • Green infrastructure
  • Ecosystems services
  • Sustainable development
  • Flooding
  • Flood insurance
  • Flood emergency
  • Water quality
  • Local environments
  • Science
  • Inland waterways
  • Watercourse maintenance
  • Land management
  • Nitrates and watercourses
  • Environmental Stewardship
  • Forestry
  • Inland waterways